John Bel Edwards
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John Bel Edwards

John Bel Edwards
John Bel Edwards.jpg
56th Governor of Louisiana

January 11, 2016
LieutenantBilly Nungesser
Bobby Jindal
Minority Leader of the
Louisiana House of Representatives

January 10, 2012 - December 10, 2015
Bobby Jindal
Gene Reynolds
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 72nd district

January 14, 2008 - December 10, 2015
Robby Carter
Robby Carter
Personal details
Born (1966-09-16) September 16, 1966 (age 54)
East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Donna Hutto
(m. 1989)
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
EducationUnited States Military Academy (BS)
Louisiana State University (JD)
WebsiteGovernment website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1988-1996
Unit25th Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division

John Bel Edwards (born September 16, 1966) is an American politician and attorney serving as the 56th governor of Louisiana since 2016. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the Democratic leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives for two terms.

Edwards was first elected to the Louisiana House in 2007. He defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in the second round of the 2015 election for governor. Edwards won a second term in the 2019 election, becoming the first Democrat to win reelection in Louisiana since Edwin Edwards (no relation) in 1975.[2] He is a United States Army veteran, having served with the 82nd Airborne Division, reaching the rank of captain.

Early life and career

Edwards was born in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana on September 16, 1966.[3] He was raised in Amite, Louisiana, the son of Dora Jean (née Miller) and Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Frank M. Edwards Jr. John Bel Edwards was born into an economically and politically well-established family in the parish. Before the Civil War, the Edwards family were among the largest slaveowners in the United States,[4] and after the war several of his ancestors were sheriffs before his father.[5] Edwards graduated from Amite High School in 1984 as valedictorian. In 1988, Edwards received a bachelor's degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy, where he was on the Dean's List and served as vice chairman of the panel that enforced the West Point honor code.[6]

Edwards completed Airborne School in 1986, while he was a student at West Point. After receiving his commission, he completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning (1988), Ranger School (1989), and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course (1992). Edwards served in the Army for eight years, mostly in the 25th Infantry Division and 82nd Airborne Division, including commanding a company in the 82nd's 3rd Brigade, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He ended his military career to return to Louisiana because of family considerations. Edwards earned a J.D. degree from the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1999, and he was a practicing attorney with the Edwards & Associates Law Firm in Amite. As an attorney, Edwards handled a variety of cases, though he did not practice criminal law because of his brother's status as the local sheriff.[6]

Legislative career

Edwards is a moderate Democrat who strongly believes in government as a beneficent force.[7] In 2007, Edwards ran for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives and was forced into a general election run-off with fellow attorney George Tucker.[8] Edwards was overwhelmingly elected, winning every parish in the district.[9] Edwards was the only freshman lawmaker to chair a committee in the legislature. Edwards chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House. Edwards was also selected as chairman of the Democratic house caucus, a rarity for a freshman legislator. Edwards became a critic of Governor Bobby Jindal for the governor's frequent trips away from Louisiana to raise political funds for Republicans elsewhere while Louisiana had been reducing its funding for higher education.

In 2011, Edwards was re-elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives, having defeated opponent Johnny Duncan, 83 to 17 percent.[10] Edwards served as chairman of the Louisiana House Democratic Caucus, making him the Louisiana House Minority Leader.[11] Cities and towns that Edwards represented included Amite, Greensburg, and Kentwood as well as part of Hammond.

Gubernatorial campaign

On February 21, 2013, Edwards announced that he would run for governor in 2015. He said that his state needed "a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people".[12] The only major Democrat in the race, Edwards polled first in the nonpartisan blanket primary with 444,517 votes (39.9 percent), followed by Vitter, who finished second with 256,300 votes (23 percent). In third place was Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, who received 214,982 votes (19.3 percent).[13]

Edwards and his wife, Donna Hutto Edwards, at a fundraising event in 2015

On November 5, 2015, Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge, the outgoing Republican lieutenant governor, who placed fourth in the gubernatorial primary election with 166,656 (15 percent),[13] endorsed Democrat Edwards in the forthcoming race against Vitter. Dardenne made his announcement at "Free Speech Alley" in front of the LSU Student Union building in Baton Rouge.[14]

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association entered the Louisiana campaign in support of Vitter with an advertisement highlighting Edwards' past support for President Barack Obama, who twice lost Louisiana's electoral votes. Edwards was a delegate for Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.[15] Edwards supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

A statewide poll prior to the primary showed Edwards with a nine-point lead over Vitter. The JMC Analytics survey placed Edwards at 28 percent, instead of the actual 40 percent, and Vitter with 19 percent, rather than his actual 23 percent.[16] After the primary polls showed Edwards with a commanding lead. Market Research Insight pollster Verne Kennedy placed Edwards ahead, 54 to 38 percent or 51 to 40 percent, depending on the level of turnout among African-American voters, 25 or 20 percent.[17]

In the runoff on November 21, 2015, Edwards won the election with 56.1 percent of the vote.[18]

Governor of Louisiana (2016–present)


Edwards meeting with Louisiana National Guardsmen in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, March 2016
Edwards speaking at a press conference in Lafayette, Louisiana, August 2016
Edwards meeting with President Donald Trump in April 2020

On his inauguration day, Edwards failed to persuade the majority-Republican Louisiana House to choose a Democrat, Walt Leger III of New Orleans, as the Speaker. On the second ballot, after Republican Cameron Henry, an ally of Senator David Vitter, withdrew from consideration, a second Republican, Taylor Barras of New Iberia, was named Speaker. Since Huey Long, governors had traditionally handpicked the state house speakers. The Barras selection was considered a surprise because he had not even been mentioned as a candidate until the voting started.[19]

On April 13, 2016, Edwards signed an executive order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from harassment or job dismissals. The order prohibits state agencies from discrimination based on either gender identity or sexual orientation. The order allows an exception for religious organizations who claim that compliance would violate their religious beliefs. "We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements. I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state," Edwards said.[20]

The governor also rescinded another executive order issued in 2015 by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal, which protected businesses and nonprofit organizations who oppose same-sex marriage from being legally punished for holding those views. This order had prohibited state agencies from penalizing businesses and individuals who act from a "religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."[21]

In 2016, Edwards enacted Medicaid expansion. By the next year, the number of Louisiana individuals without health insurance was cut in half (11.4%, which was down from 22.7%).[22] According to a study conducted by LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business, Edwards' expansion of Medicaid made over 500,000 more adults eligible for Medicaid, of whom 327,000 were uninsured.[23]

Edwards promised early in 2017 that he could work with the incoming Donald Trump administration. He expressed eagerness to work with the Trump Cabinet, particularly on the issues of Medicaid expansion and federal infrastructure projects.[24]

In January 2017, Edwards traveled to Italy on a personal trip to discuss ways to combat human trafficking. Edwards traveled with sisters of the Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy who established a shelter in Baton Rouge for child victims of human trafficking. Edwards met with Pope Francis during the trip.[25][26]

Edwards campaigned on a policy to reduce the prison population in Louisiana.[27] One of his first actions as governor was to commute 22 sentences out of 56 that the state's Board of Pardons had identified for him.[27] Since the end of 2016 and to July 2018, Edwards did not sign a single commutation despite at least 70 cases that the state's Board of Pardons identified for him during the period.[27] In 2018, Edwards signed legislation that shortened the sentences for nonviolent, non-sex-crime offenders who showed good behavior while in prison.[28]

In May 2018, Edwards, who is pro-life, signed a bill into law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.[29][30] In May, 2019, he signed an even more restrictive "fetal heartbeat" bill although a similar bill in the 5th Circuit, one with a similar predecessor, was blocked by Judge Carlton Reeves, in the Southern District of Mississippi.[31][32][33] In response to backlash from his more progressive supporters, Edwards released a statement in which he said, "As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth." He continued his statement by referencing his attempts to expand investment in education, reform Louisiana's criminal justice system, pass laws that would protect LGBT citizens from discrimination in the workplace, raise the minimum wage, and ensure equal pay between men and women.[34]

At the end of 2018, Edwards said that his top priority for 2019 was to achieve a $1,000 pay raise for teachers and a $500 raise for school support workers. For the first time in 10 years, the House passed a budget that included pay raises for teachers and support staff.[35][36]

Cabinet and administration

The Edwards Cabinet[37][38][39]
Governor John Bel Edwards 2016-present
Chief of Staff Ben Nevers

Mark Cooper



Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne 2016-present
Executive Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Activities, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board Chairman Chip Kline 2019-present
Secretary of Economic Development Don Pierson 2016-present
Secretary of Environmental Quality Dr. Chuck Brown 2016-present
Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Jim Waskom 2016-present
Secretary of Health Dr. Rebekah Gee 2016-2020
Courtney N. Phillips 2020-present
Executive Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission Ava Dejoie 2016-present
Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc 2008-present
Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Lewis Robinson 2016-present
Secretary of Transportation and Development Dr. Shawn Wilson 2016-present
Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police Colonel Michael "Mike" Edmonson 2008-2017
Colonel Kevin W. Reeves 2017-present
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Joey Strickland 2016-present
Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries Charlie Melançon 2016-2017
Jack Montoucet 2017-present
Secretary of Natural Resources Thomas Harris 2016-present
Secretary of Children and Family Services Marketa Garner Walters 2016-present

Personal life and family

Edwards is married to Donna (née Hutto, born February 1967). She studied at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and graduated with a business degree in Industrial Management, before training as a teacher.[40]

They have two daughters, Sarah and Samantha Edwards, and one son, John Miller Edwards.

Edwards is a Roman Catholic[26] and a parishioner of the St. Helena Roman Catholic Church in Amite.[41] He is regularly seen attending church services at Christ the King Parish and Catholic Center, located on LSU's campus.

Edwards is the brother of Independence, Louisiana chief of police Frank Millard Edwards, as well as Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel H. Edwards. Edwards is brother-in-law to 21st Judicial District Court Juvenile Judge Blair Downing Edwards, a Republican. In 2011, one of Edwards' brothers, Christopher Edwards, died in a car crash after his vehicle veered into oncoming traffic and collided with a UPS truck.[42] In 2014, Edwards and other members of his Tangipahoa Parish political family were inducted as a group into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame Winnfield.

Edwards won the GTT Golf Tournament run by his West Point classmates on March 16, 2019. This is his second tournament win.

He is not related to the former Governor Edwin Edwards.

Electoral history

Edwards with a constituent in 2010

2007 Louisiana House of Representatives 72nd district election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 6,142 44%
Democratic George Tucker 2,499 18%
Democratic Michael "Mike" Jackson 2,311 16%
Democratic Walter Daniels 1,979 14%
Democratic Ivory Dyson 1,088 8%
Total 14,019 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 6,825 66%
Democratic George Tucker 3,541 34%
Total 10,366 100%
Democratic hold

2011 Louisiana House of Representatives 72nd district election

2011 Louisiana House of Representatives 72nd district
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards (inc.) 9,968 83%
No party Johnny "I Can" Duncan 2,032 17%
Total 12,000 100%
Democratic hold

2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 444,517 39.89%
Republican David Vitter 256,300 23.00%
Republican Scott Angelle 214,982 19.29%
Republican Jay Dardenne 166,656 14.96%
Democratic Cary Deaton 11,763 1.06%
Democratic S. L. Simpson 7,420 0.67%
No party Beryl Billiot 5,694 0.51%
Other Jeremy Odom 4,756 0.43%
Other Eric Paul Orgeron 2,248 0.20%
Total 1,114,336 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 646,924 56.1%
Republican David Vitter 505,940 43.9%
Total 1,152,864 100%
Democratic gain from Republican

2019 Louisiana gubernatorial election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 625,970 46.59%
Republican Eddie Rispone 368,319 27.42%
Republican Ralph Abraham 317,149 23.61%
Democratic Oscar Dantzler 10,993 0.82%
Republican Patrick Landry 10,966 0.82%
Other Gary Landrieu 10,084 0.75%
Total 1,343,481 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 774,469 51.3%
Republican Eddie Rispone 734,128 48.7%
Total 1,508,597 100%
Democratic hold


  1. ^ "Thirty-one years of marriage down and many more to go. @FirstLadyOfLA has been by my side since we began dating in 1981, and our love grows stronger every day. I give thanks daily for the life that we are blessed to share. Happy anniversary, Donna, I love you! -- JBE #lagov". Twitter.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "John Bel Edwards".
  4. ^ Burns, Robert (October 2, 2019). "After Sound Off Louisiana poses simple question of Gov. Edwards' stand on reparations for slavery, two national publications follow supplying evidence of his family's extensive past slave ownership to include "spacious family homes" built entirely by uncompensated slave labor". Sound Off Louisiana. Retrieved 2020. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules shows that Edwards' great-great-great grandfather Daniel Edwards, a resident of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, owned 57 slaves. That same census showed that Daniel Edwards' son, Gov. Edwards' great-great grandfather Nicholas Stone Edwards, a resident of nearby Ward 1 in Washington Parish, Louisiana, owned 33 slaves. ... The Edwards family was one of the largest slave holding families in Louisiana in 1860, and was near the top one percent of slave holding families in the entire country at that time, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, 1970.
  5. ^ "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TPSO! Celebrating "A Legacy of Sheriff's"". Facebook. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office. March 29, 2019. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ a b Sentell, Will (September 22, 2015). "Democratic State Representative John Bel Edwards". The New Orleans World Advocate. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ Levine, Sam (November 21, 2015). "John Bel Edwards Wins Louisiana Gubernatorial Election". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019."The America Profile: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the pro-life Catholic Democrat". America Magazine. December 14, 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ "George R Tucker: Hammond, LA Lawyer, Lawyer, Attorney, Attorneys". Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  9. ^ David, Brennan (November 18, 2007). "John Bel Edwards claims strong win". Hammond Daily Star. Retrieved 2009.
  10. ^ Edwards, John Bel (October 23, 2010). "AWOL Jindal: Guv galavants while Louisiana languishes". Daily Star. Hammond, Louisiana. p. 5A.
  11. ^ "Louisiana House of Representatives - Internet Portal". September 1, 2006. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved 2012.
  12. ^ Adelson, Jeff (February 10, 2013). "John Bel Edwards announces he is running for governor in 2015". The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2013.
  13. ^ a b "Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 2015.
  14. ^ Hilburn, Greg (November 5, 2015). "Republican Dardenne Endorses Democrat Edwards". The Shreveport Times. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015.
  15. ^ Crisp, Elizabeth (October 9, 2015). "Republican governors group weighs in on Louisiana governor's race with ad targeting John Bel Edwards". The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved 2015.
  16. ^ "Poll: Edwards has nine point lead over Vitter in LA governor's race". October 5, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ "Three polls show John Bel Edwards leading David Vitter in stunning turn of events surrounding governor's race". The Baton Rouge Advocate. November 3, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  18. ^ "John Bel Edwards beats David Vitter to become Louisiana's next governor". The Times-Picayune. November 21, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  19. ^ O'Donoghue, Julia (January 11, 2016). "John Bel Edwards doesn't get his pick for House speaker". Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ "Gov. Edwards Signs Non-discrimination Executive Order; Rescinds Marriage and Conscience Executive Order | Office of the Governor of Louisiana". Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^ "Louisiana Gov. to Rescind Predecessor's Antigay Order". March 28, 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  22. ^ "Louisiana uninsured rate drops since expansion of Medicaid". kentucky. Retrieved 2018.
  23. ^ "New Health Insurance Study Released as State Rolls Out Medicaid Expansion". Louisiana State University. August 30, 2016. Retrieved 2019.
  24. ^ Stickney, Ken (January 9, 2017). "Gov. Edwards ready to work with Trump". Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ Gov. John Bel Edwards paying his own way to Rome; public to pay for security, Associated Press (January 13, 2017).
  26. ^ a b Elizabeth Crisp, Gov. John Bel Edwards, others from Louisiana meet Pope Francis in Italy, The Advocate (January 19, 2017).
  27. ^ a b c "This Red State Governor Is Giving Hope To People Sentenced To Die In Prison". The Appeal. Retrieved 2018.
  28. ^ Toohey, Grace; Sledge, Matt. "Louisiana reform means early release for 2,000 prisoners; see 4 of their stories". The Advocate. Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ "Democratic Louisiana governor signs 15-week abortion ban". Washington Examiner. May 30, 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  30. ^ Hellmann, Jessie (May 30, 2018). "Louisiana's Dem governor signs nation's most restrictive abortion ban". The Hill. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ Anti-abortion stance puts Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards at odds with much of his Democratic base, The Advocate, Tyler Bridges, June 1, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  32. ^ Sherman, Carter (May 24, 2019). ""Here We Go Again:" This Judge Blocked Another Mississippi Abortion Ban and He's Tired". Vice News. Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ Federal judge's questions point toward striking down Mississippi's latest abortion ban, "Clarion Ledger", Sarah Fowler, May 21, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  34. ^ Edwards, John Bel (May 29, 2019). "My statement on the passage of SB 184 following final passage by the Louisiana Legislature. #lalege". @LouisianaGov. Retrieved 2019.
  35. ^ Network, Louisiana. "Gov. Edwards: Teacher Pay Raises My No. 1 Goal For 2019". KPEL 96.5. Retrieved 2018.
  36. ^ Louisiana House backs $30 billion budget, including bigger boost for teacher pay, KPEL, May 9, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  37. ^ "The Cabinet | Office of Governor John Bel Edwards". Retrieved 2019.
  38. ^ "Edwards makes key cabinet appointments". Retrieved 2019.
  39. ^ Crisp, Elizabeth (July 9, 2017). "Meet Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' new top aide who's 'maybe not your traditional type of chief of staff'". The Advocate. Retrieved 2019.
  40. ^ "Donna Edwards - First Lady of Louisiana". Thrive Magazine.
  41. ^ The America Profile: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the pro-life Catholic Democrat, America (December 14, 2018).
  42. ^ "Fatal crash kills brother of Tangipahoa Parish sheriff". The Advocate. Retrieved 2018.

External links

Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robby Carter
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 72nd district

Succeeded by
Robby Carter
Preceded by
Jane Smith
Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Gene Reynolds
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tara Hollis
Democratic nominee for Governor of Louisiana
2015, 2019
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Bobby Jindal
Governor of Louisiana
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Louisiana
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
Preceded by
Mike DeWine
as Governor of Ohio
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Louisiana
Succeeded by
Eric Holcomb
as Governor of Indiana

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